Hajia Gambo Sawaba (15 February 1933 – October 2001) was a Nigerian women’s rights activist, politician, and philanthropist. She served as the deputy chairman of Great Nigeria People’s Party and was elected leader of the national women’s wing of Northern Element Progressive Union (NEPU).
Early Life: Hajia Sawaba was born to Isa Amartey Amarteifio (christened Theophilus Wilcox) who was an immigrant from Ghana and Fatima Amarteifio a Nupe woman from Avun Local Government, Niger State. Amarteifo was a graduate of Ghana School of Survey who immigrated to Nigeria in 1910 and sought to be employed by the Nigerian Railway Corporation. Fatima’s great grandfather was a blacksmith as well as a warrior who gave birth to Mamman Dazu, their grandfather. Mamman Dazu is said to have been a great warrior and widely consulted. Gambo Sawaba was educated at the Native Authority Primary School in Tudun, Wada. She, however, had to stop schooling after the loss of her father in 1943, who died complaining of a headache, and her mother 3 years after. She was married off at age 13 to a World War II veteran Abubakar Garba Bello who left and never returned after her first pregnancy. Quite noticeable about her when she was a child, was her unusual interest in mentally ill, ‘mad’, people. She spoke with them, accommodated some and gave the ones she could money, clothes, and food. As a child, she was often described as stubborn and heady and almost always got into street brawls. According to her “I could not stand by to watch a weak friend or relation being molested.” She said she used to take over such fights. Whenever she got to the scenes of such fights, she would immediately say “OK, I have bought the fight from you” to the weaker person and take over the fight.
Achievements and Legacy: Sawaba was involved in politics since she was 17. During that time, northern Nigeria was dominated by the Northern People’s Congress, which had the support of the Emirs and British Colonial Authority but she joined the opposition group Northern Element Progressive Union (NEPU). She was a campaigner against under-aged marriages, forced labor and an advocate for western education in the north. Gambo made a name for herself when at a political lecture during her career in the North, she climbed up and spoke out in a room full of men. She was mentored by Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti and traveled to meet her in Abeokuta years later. She is widely regarded as the pioneer of fighting for the liberation of northern women. A general hospital was named after her in Kaduna.